While some college coaches say the talent level of the recruiting pool is down this year as compared to years past, Wisconsin's NCAA champion coach Jim Launder is of a different opinion.
"I had a discussion with [another college coach] who told me talent is down this year," Launder said. "I told him talent is up and it makes it more difficult to single out the top players. The water has become muddier."
Sifting through the murk of the Region II recruiting pool Launder came up with two players he considers sleepers in this year's class, defender Ted Storm and midfielder Kareem Aal.
"[Aal] is very intelligent, he reads situations very well," Launder said. "He reminds me of a 30-year-old in a 17-year-old body."
He is likewise high on Storm, a versatile defender who covers a lot of ground and is good in the air.
But Launder wasn't the only coach to come away from the Region II pool aglow.
As usual regional powers Indiana and Saint Louis, as well as Notre Dame, were successful in dipping into the pool, as were region outsiders Clemson, Maryland and UCLA.
Somewhat uncharacteristically the state of Wisconsin proved to be the hotbed of the region this year. Besides Storm, the state yielded U-20 national team goalkeeper Andy Kirk, who joins Sasho Cirovski at Maryland; and two players from the No. 1 ranked high school in the nation Brookfield East, sweeper Peter Henning and striker Dennis Fadeski, both headed to Indiana.
Cirovski raves about Kirk, whom he expects to push veteran Russell Payne for time in the Terrapins goal.
"He's mature, a consummate professional," Cirovski says of Kirk. "He's the complete package -- great hands, great feet and great courage. Indiana coach Jerry Yeagley really likes Fadeski, who was the captain at Brookfield and the state's leading scorer. To add grit to his resume, he was the state wrestling champ in the 160-pound weight class.
Notre Dame coach Mike Berticelli was ecstatic with landing U-20 national team forward Ryan Cox.
"Personally I think I got the top kid in the region [in Cox]," said Berticelli. "Out of all the players he has the most international experience. He's strong on the ball and has a knack for scoring. Technically I think he's one of the best players ever to come out of Ohio.
"We expect him to come in and start and make an immediate impact because he's adaptable. He's physical, yet technical."
Other happy coaches:
Saint Louis University's Joe Clarke, who practically had Vedad Alagic, whose family moved to St. Louis in early 1995 as refugees of the civil war in Bosnia, fall into his lap.
Alagic led St. Mary's High School to its first state championship in 25 years, causing his high school coach to compare him to Wayne Gretzky in his playmaking ability.
Creighton's Bret Simon, who found a central defender in Kentuckian David Wright.
"[Wright] is very steady in the back," Simon said. "He could be the best in the air in the region. But his footwork is also really good. He has great potential to be a dominating player coming out of the back."
And UCLA's Sigi Schmid, whose stellar recruiting year includes perhaps the best player in Region II in the form of midfielder Shea Travis.
"He may be the cream of the crop," said Berticelli. "He's a good player, a central midfielder type with a good shot. He's dangerous coming forward."
All in all it wasn't a bad year at all in Region II and they can only improve according to Indiana's Yeagley: "...the best is yet to be seen [from this group], they will grow and prosper. These guys still have a lot to show."
by Soccer America Associate Editor Poul Swain.
|G||Andy Kirk||Milwaukee, Wis.||Maryland|
|Complete package, great hands and great feet|
|D||David Wright||Louisville, Ky.||Creighton|
|Very good in the air.|
|D||Peter Henning||Milwaukee, Wis.||Indiana|
|D||Ted Storm||Mequon, Wis.||Wisconsin|
|Skillful, good in the air|
|M||Shea Travis||Romulus, Mich.||UCLA|
|Can create and score|
|M||Kareem Aal||Minneapolis, Minn.||Wisconsin|
|Savvy beyond his years|
|F||Ryan Cox||Broadview Heights, Ohio||Notre Dame|
|Has knack for scoring|
|F||Chad James||Berea, Ohio||Clemson|
|Great speed, very intelligent, exciting attacking player|
|F||Vedad Alagic||St. Louis, Mo.||Saint Louis|
|Excellent ball control, incisive passer|
|F||Jeremy Iwaszskoviec||St. Charles, Mo.||Clemson|
|Technical and explosive|
|F||Dennis Fadeski||Milwaukee, Wis.||Indiana|
|Aggressive player who finds the net|